Saturday, September 27, 2008

ODDS and ENDS. I'm going to take a moment to answer some questions left by Dale. First, about the logistics of the house, oleanders, trees, etc.: the above picture shows the house from the front. The house faces (very roughly south). There are lines of oleanders along the property lines to both the east and the west (right and left, respectively, as you face the house).

The dorm tree is just to the left of the front porch. The olive tree, which you can't see in this picture, is on the west side of the house.

I'm pretty sure that the large family of quail that I used to think were roosting in the oleanders to the east (but now think are roosting in the evergreens by my eastern neighbors' front porch) is the same family I've been seeing all along. I think this because it seems to be rare for so many quail to grow to near adulthood in one family. (Most families seem to have just two or possibly three grown chicks.) I see one or at most two such very large families out by the quail block. I think it's the same guys.

As for the topknots on the quail: the males have dangling, thick black topknots that I like to refer to as fishing lures, because that is what they look like to me. The females have more slender topknots that tend to be more upright. The males have black faces with reddish-brown caps, the females have gray faces. Check this great Wikipedia article for excellent photos and lots more information:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Update on the quail roosting in my tree:

Last night I watched two sets of four quail approach the tree, but as I wasn't on the porch couldn't tell if they roosted in it. I thought they were my regular quail. A few minutes later I moved out onto the porch, and lo and behold, along came another two sets of four each! These were my regular quail.

First, two pairs of male and female. They are always together, so so I think it's a set of parents and their two mostly-grown offspring. The next set of four sometimes come along a few minutes later, though last night they were right on the heels of the first guys. These are definitely a family of four. I haven't yet gotten a close enough look to determine the genders of the chicks.

So... it's possible I have sixteen quail roosting in my tree! This is a lot of quail for one tree, or so it seems to me. I know that the later roosters always get into vocal squabbles with whoever is there first. Sometimes one or more quail jump out of the tree and run around on the ground for a while before re-roosting. Also something I just noticed fairly recently is that a lot of quail delay going to roost until they have had a chance to take a dust bath. Maybe it keeps them from being itchy all night.

I have no new quail pictures, so the above is another shot from Agua Caliente Park.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Two things: First, this is another beautiful cactus flower from our front yard. The cactus itself is spherical--about the size and shape of a very large canteloupe. I looked through my nature books and did some Internet research, but couldn't identify it. I think it may be a gymnocalycium or possibly a mammalaria, but I haven't seen other striped flowers like this.  WILL ANYONE READING THIS WHO KNOWS THE ID PLEASE LEAVE A NOTE.

Second: I haven't seen the family of ten quails lately--they head next door really early. But I think I know where they are roosting. Our neighbors invited us over to tell us they are moving. I noticed that they have two tall and very thick evergreens beside the front door. A family of ten could slip right into either tree and disappear in a minute.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A quickie, before I forget. Most cacti bloom late spring (prickly pear) or early summer (sahuaros). For some reason barrel cacti bloom in the late summer. We have lots of barrels on our property, including the beautiful golden barrels, which I have never seen in flower.

These pics are of two barrels just east of our driveway. There are others with somewhat different colors, but all are shades of yellow, orange, and red.
QUAIL UPDATE! I'm back to my obsessive evening quail watching, except that I'm watching the front yard from inside the house because it is still too hot and humid to go out on the porch, except briefly.

I'm a little confused about what's what, but here is what I know. Until maybe a week ago, a large family of quail (I counted eleven) headed off toward the neighbors' yard every evening fairly early (about 20 minutes before sundown). I thought they were roosting in the oleanders, but once saw them going behind the oleanders, so probably they had a tree somewhere in the neighbors' yard.

About fifteen minutes later, several other quail headed west. I stepped out on the porch and saw several of them head for either the other neighbors' yard or the olive tree in our side yard. Not clear on where they went. A few others--maybe as many as eight or nine--in separate small groups headed for the dorm tree around the same time.

Then, just a few days ago, I saw a large family group seemingly coming from the east (where the oleanders are) and seemingly heading toward the dorm tree. I went out on the porch the next night and confirmed it: a family of eight (six 3/4-grown chicks and two parents) all roosted in the dorm tree. I don't know if anyone else is there.

I haven't seen the family of eleven in several days. I'm wondering if something happened to their roosting place, and they are now the family of eight. I will continue to watch and report.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A few weeks ago when I was watering my shade garden (see picture), I was startled by a fairly large (around 2 ft) king snake uncoiling. He moved pretty fast to get away from the water.

He was there the next day and the next. I looked for him both days but didn't see him until he'd been disturbed by the watering. I never saw him again (except once out by the pond) and assumed he had moved because he didn't like being watered.

But no, about three weeks later my yard guy pointed out a two-foot long snakeskin in the shade garden. I took it out to photograph it, but it fell apart. So instead I'm showing a photo of the large king snake I snapped last year.